Apr 11, 2007

Public Profiles and Personal Conduct

With a little help from learned scribes and galvanized by a couple of articles and coversations, it is perhaps prudent to discuss this topic.

Personal conduct has a bearing on public roles and public responsibilities. The degree to which a public figure voluntarily conducts his or her life in public or the degree to which private conduct bears on the discharge of public responsibility should guide the publication of personal information. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.

What is "the Public" ?

"The public" is a social formation - a group of people who are otherwise unrelated who come together by reference to a common purpose, like in a nation of people, and who have in common the information provided by a common source to enable the right decisions.

These people relate together, to a different form of social structure, which we might call that of a community, which is a group of people who are socialized into a common set of norms or standards.

We all grow up in communities, in families. They teach us what’s right and wrong. They tell us you don’t bite your friend; they tell us you don’t scream at your friend; and all of our lives we conduct ourselves according to these norms.

These are the
NORMS that mark our respect for each other as human beings.

Our dignity, our sense of self-worth comes from the fact that people treat us according to these commonly socialized norms. Privacy is one set of norms by which we accord other people respect and dignity.

If an institution wants to change you, unhinge your identity, the very first thing it does is strip away all the markers of dignity that come from these standards. Think of the way, for example, the military can do this. They shave your hair, they strip you naked , make you run around without dignity, they invade your privacy, they take away all the things that make you have a sense of yourself as having dignity and being special.

These societal norms have two functions.

1) they are part of our personality. When they are broken we feel endangered, degraded and threatened.
2) they define who we are as a community.

The key notion of a public is that of accountability. We come together as a public because we have something in common to accomplish. For example with the creation of our nation, all these different communities, all with different norms — the Chinese market gardeners, the Girmiteers, the itaukei community got together to govern a nation . So how did we do this ?

The answer is the people come out of their communities into a common public space. The public is the universe in which there are different communities, so although you will find these separate communities trying to influence the standards of the public, the public is mostly governed by making the right decision.


The question for the public becomes one of accountability, of information, of critique, of knowledge, of rational exchange. That is the logic of a public.

Public Property

It is said that the lives of public persons are public property. We own you if you are public, and we look at you in the full glare of publicity, and we strip you naked, and we want to have every bit of information about you that is relevant to making a decision about you. That’s dehumanizing. It’s dehumanizing because it deprives you of the dignity that comes from community norms, and it is answered with the logic of reason and accountability.

This is the tension created between what helps us members of the public determine who is good enough to govern us. We have to look at this and ask how relevant is it to the issue at hand. What is this person doing, being "representative" of us the public that offends us?

In the carrying out of their public duties, how are these people's actions relevant to our interests and concerns ? I

s there a hypocrisy here in how someone is deciding issues, for instance?

What is the significant impact that these actions are having? Sometimes, these are codified down to ethical standards and moral values that may indeed be common to all communities across the board.

Privacy and the Facts

Privacy is probably meaningless in Fiji right now . For instance, military officers barging into your house in the middle of the night waving their sticks, and busting people up is hardly private and all the other deceitful things they are doing like setting up countless anti-corruption kangaroo courts ...... why not just support the Police efforts - well silly question, can't do that now as the Police Authority has been usurped and the general public now has little faith in the system !

Woilei , we are going round and round like a dog's tail.

We have to worry about the facts, and must let the truth take care of itself.

Truth is like beauty. It’s in the eye of the beholder.

And facts depend upon verifiability.

Verifiability depends upon being able to get our hands on lots of information that people don’t want us to have because they want to shape their stories ( ala AhNaDa & Co.) to suit themselves, not to suit the interests of society, and certainly not to suit our strong desire to inform our communities.

Realistically many of the real assaults that are being made on privacy are being made
on all of us, the public, by this illegal regime and all those that are part of it. This entire military junta intends to enhance their own efforts to deceive us the public, and to spin their propaganda stories more and more aggressively.

They are demanding we give up our rights and "exposing" private citizens just because they "can" through their judge and jury method - through mainstream media, through bulldozing and propoganda methods, and through their soviet style anti-corruption units.

Plus there is a growing percentage of the public that don't trust the newspapers and the radio these days and although the public doesn’t fully trust these information outlets, it reads and listens what they say.

Many of the public are now realising they need to ferret out what is duka and what is savasava.

Bloggers now have a lot of information at their disposal and to be credible they need to deal to it reasonably, fairly, morally . If we "blog" / print the facts whether pretty or not , and they are facts, people are going to learn to trust it more.

Public officials are always public figures. Candidates for public office are also public figures. These people are very important in our lives, legally or illegally, this is an important criteria.

These people are also voluntary public figures — ie. people who have
deliberately sought public attention by becoming part of this illegal government.

Therefore are we within our rights to ask some of the questions about their ethics and values and morals and other kinds of private issues, or not?

For instance, at what point does, say a person who worked within the Military system who has been implicated for handling of some questionable regimental finances, expose themselves to more study by us about their lives in general?

Gray area perhaps but one that should be discussed as they affect our lives being that this person is now got his hands on a sizeable chunk of (our) taxpayers money.

In Fiji, religious bodies play a big part in our communities, and they do care about a Public Person’s sex life if they are going to trust him/ her him to public office. They care about the moral implications of this person's behavior.

The issue of relevance is an important one here. In Fiji, where family values are supposed to feature strongly, and wehere everyone preaches about it and where you have certain former Military Coup Maker in years gone past featuring in warm and fuzzy photos with his family and children, and the newspapers portraying him as a very active churchgoer and involved in all sorts of civic things.

However, everyone knew all about the kama sutra's going on all around the country.

One of the papers at the time made a decision to print the story, and that was with a lot of controversy in our community. Whatever prompted that newspaper to print that story probably hung on family values and pride and children and family and all things good.

And even as I advocate using discretion and applying values and morals and all those good things, there are times when we simply make a hard decision and use something that is hurtful, and at those times we should know very well why we decided to do that and be able to back it up.

We hold people in the seat of power accountable for their actions, and as we hold others accountable, I think we have to be accountable for what we are using.

When we’re making tough decisions, we need to know why we’ve done it and be able to explain that.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Difficult subject but sometimes when this is the only ammunition people have against the might of the gun, the clear advantage of the might of the pen becomes crystal clear. It also shows that people aren't stupid. People that have abused their positions have insulted the intelligence of their populace by carrying on the way they do. So the pen arrives to do its work. Timing is the key.

Anonymous said...

Well... well..so much for Public Profile and Conduct that the military has forgotten who they are in the eyes of the public. They have forgotten what they there to do. They have certainly lost the plot through greed and self-righteous amongst their leaders. Lewensky your public conduct needs to be relooked at.....for meeting secretly with Joanna Berwick Masirewa.No wonder you look groggy and sleepy all the time.Does your wife know about your extra curricular activities after hours.....you must be nocturnal.....only come out at night to feed but on someone elses expense.

Anonymous said...

Wow, is Leweni doing Joana Berwick Masirewa? And is she still serving as an airline waitress aka flight attendant?

Anonymous said...

What Joana does is none of your buisness. about time this website get updated...stale news move on....no life or wot?

Eric said...

i am a relative of joanna berwick and i take great offence to the above comments. its a wonder why you even great a create forum for such a malice accusations. I suggest you get your facts right before you post meaningless comments online. Anonymous as you are...you are also a coward!